Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Going in Circles

 This blog post, just so you know, could’ve been titled “Amazon 1-Click + Kindle Fire with Wifi + Midnight feedings with nothing to do = Awesome” or alternatively “Amazon 1-Click + Kindle Fire with Wifi + Midnight feedings with nothing to do = Danger!!!” because that is exactly how I ended up ordering this book. I think it was the 2 am feeding, I was bored and looking for something to read and/or do so I paid for Going in Circles and Plants Vs. Zombies pretty much simultaneously. See what I mean about this kind of ability being both awesome and dangerous?

Which is pretty much how I feel about this book, so it is fitting. The book, Going In Circles, was more or less an impulse buy.  Actually that’s not true, I’ve known about the book since it was released a couple of years ago, but I had a lot going on back then so I couldn’t pick it up when it was released. It's been on my list for a while now and thanks to that late night feeding, I finally got the hair up my but to track it down so I can cross it off.

I’ve known about the author and her masterful writing from her website which I check on occasionally. I knew to expect witty and creative writing, but I’m not sure I could’ve ever imagined this. Pamela Ribon, the Author  is a self pro-claimed derby dork (says so on her website) and the book masterfully mixes both the derby and a level or sweet-hearted dorkiness that is both awesome and dangerous, but is also funny and heartbreaking and sad and hilarious and about a hundred other things people who have reviewed her book have said a lot better than I can.

The story in a nutshell is about Charlotte Goodman, a girl whose life is falling apart, her marriage may be crumbling, her job sucks, her jaw locks on her (A heroine with TMJ whose a technical writer! It's like Pamela looked right into my soul), and who is too paralyzed to start picking up the pieces. In the midst of this she meets an unlikely friend and finds an unlikely outlet for her frustrations, roller derby.  Both what happens to be going on in the character’s life and in the roller derby rink and incredibly gripping and also well described. Case in point, Charlotte’s Husband’s OCD is painstakingly described to the point that I can see the character carefully moving the items in their rightful place and how that behavior is a kind of language, a short-hand she speaks with her husband and I actually ached when she ached when that was out of her life. Because I know what that means, to have a relationship short-hand, and I know what it would feel like if it were suddenly gone, if I know longer got to read that language. Ukiah and I had that short-hand. The way I would modify baby signs for him so that he could communicate with me, the way I could tell that he might have one of his downward spirals and he might code just by a facial expression he had on his face. And when I lost him, I wasn’t just morning losing him, but the loss of that language, of that communication that passed between us that was no longer going to be there, and about a million other tiny little things that were his and ours that I’d never have again. There were certain nights where my chest would go through phantom limb pains, missing the weight of his little head on my chest. Her writing brought that to the surface for me in a subtle but profound way.

Wow, I just went to a deep, tearful place I didn’t expect to go, but that’s the power of the book. That she can talk about that so masterfully that it brings something out in me that may not be the same but is similar, the book makes the personal very universal.  

I’d love to spend another paragraph talking about the derby scenes and how very real they feel and (Spoiler) how I cringed and rubbed my rear-end when Charlotte broke hers, or how I held my breath as she described the action packed derby scenes, because they are in there and well worth the read on their own. It almost makes me want to take up roller derby, but I think I’ll stick to windsurfing, thankyouverymuch. I think I can only have one sport at a time in which I am marginal but want to get better at.

I’ll wrap up by saying that the book also has a power to it that a few rare books have had for me. It makes me want to write. That fire has always been there. Otherwise I wouldn’t have my own piece of fiction ready to go. (Hi publishers, Literary Agents, I’m here!)  It puts fuel to the fire, which great writing can.  I think I tweeted as much after I had read the first couple of chapters, but it still holds true, now a few days after I’ve read it. I commented to my husband this morning that thanks to this book, I’m narrating everything as if it has purpose, as if it needs to be written down. This book flipped that switch on, however temporarily, and that’s a gift. Going in Circles blew on a couple of embers, threw a few more logs on, and stoked up that fire so I'm toasting warm with ideas (I have to stop milking metaphors to their last sour drop, see did it again!). To me that is one of the highest honors I can bestow on a tome.

Well worth the read, and don’t be surprised if I start reading Pamela Ribon’s whole back catalog and also don’t be surprised if I pre-order her new one. Amazon1-Click + Midnight Feedings=Danger!  

Don’t just stand there. Pick it up already! A+